Caplansky’s Tuesday, Oct 28 2008 

With my week off from work winding down, I spent Friday just walking around Toronto. I got this crazy craving for good coffee and a poutine – an itch that needed to be scratched and I knew where to scratch them – Manic for a delicious Americano and, upon the suggestion of many, Caplansky’s (12 Clinton St. – just south of College) for a poutine which is just a few blocks south west of Manic  and, conveniently enough, on my way home.

 

Walking into Caplansky’s I had no idea what to expect as I had heard various contradicting descriptions of what I was about to have in front of me. Without even looking at the menu I ordered the poutine. A few short minutes later, Adrian, the kitchen whiz kid, delivered it with an eager smile.

 

 

 

First things first: I’m not a big meat eater. I don’t really eat meat at all save for the occasional morsel, but I’m no stranger to broths and (of course) gravies. I’m basically a part-time vegetarian (read: not vegetarian, just a pussy). However, as we can see above this is clearly a dish with chunks of Caplansky’s specialty; smoked meat. I was a little apprehensive and weary of diving in, but hey, no guts no glory. How am I ever going to find the best poutine in Toronto if I don’t occasionally take one for the team?

 

Hey – maybe if I keep telling myself that maybe I’ll start to believe it.

 

In any event – Adrian advised me that he was no stranger to the blog and he was anxious to know how I felt about the dish…

 

At the base we have fresh cut fries which are not only cut but are also cooked to perfection. These might seriously be the best poutine fries that I have had in Toronto so far. We also have serious cheese curdage which, as you know if you either a) know anything about poutine or b) have read this ridiculous blog before, is nothing less than crucial. It’s also worth noting that the poutine smells fucking phenomenal. There is no two ways about it.

 

My only beef with this smoked meat poutine (pun fully intended – I’m sorry … I’m not sorry) is that it’s not traditional. The thick chunky gravy with bits of smoked meat floating is not really on my radar for a poutine. However! This gravy was no less than mind blowing. So rich and smokey and delicious. This dish was so delicious that I took my girlfriend back the next day to try it. I thought that she was going to get the borsche (which is also really good) that I recommended but she got the poutine and also agreed that while not traditional, totally delicious and leaves you quite satiated.

 

Because I was too busy shoveling this little $6 bowl of magic into my mouth on Friday, on Saturday we were able to snap a shot of Adrian’s intricate layering…

 

 

All in all, I will obviously go back and eat it as I have already had it twice in as many days. However, I stress that this may not be right for you if you’re looking for something traditional and/or if you’re not into bits of meat.

 

On Saturday, Zane (the big cheese) came out and talked with my girlfriend and I and asked how we enjoyed everything and we started talking about poutine and what not – he even suggested a couple spots that I check out! I was explaining to him that I really enjoyed it but, to be frank, it lost points for not being traditional. Not surprised by my comments, he then began to tell me how they make the gravy. To be honest, it basically starts out as something that would be spot on for a traditional poutine, but then he throws a couple curve balls to put his own spin on it – dude knows what he’s doing. I honestly don’t blame him for making something original which is (hopefully) paying off.

 

Both Zane and Adrian were awesome to my girlfriend and I – as well as the waitresses on both Friday and Saturday. It’s a great feeling to go grab a bite to eat and you’re surrounded by nothing but smiles and positive attitudes by both staff and patrons. I sincerely urge everyone to check out Caplansky’s – try the poutine, get a smoked meat sandwich or even the borsche. I cannot see how this place can disappoint. I’m bringing my parents there when they come to visit next month.

Gilead Cafe; Excuse Me Waiter, I’d like A Little Douche On The Side… Tuesday, Oct 28 2008 

Here’s a review written by my man Chenyip – I should have one up myself in the next day or so. Enjoy!

It’s fully expected that high end establishments like Splendido, Colborne Lane, Lee’s and Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar attract a level of obnoxious clientele.  Said restaurants cater to a certain income bracket and within that small niche of fat pocketbooks, exist a heavy percentage of boorish snobs that claw with every ounce of energy to preserve whatever status quo they represent.

 

It goes without saying then, when aforementioned Jamie Kennedy decided to transform his production kitchen on 2 Gilead Place into a lunch spot aptly named Gilead Cafe, that douche’s would be in tow.  The menu reads like your standard cafe chocked with fan favorites from JKWB.  Pulled Pork Sandwiches, Smoked Salmon sandwiches, frites and even baked goods all find a home on Gilead’s menu.  But there’s one item that stands out from the rest that has fans and foodies alike scouring the chalkboard menu with darting eyes.

It’s been written about in a handful of magazines.  it’s been praised through the blog sphere as a must have.  And it’s even been touted as one of the best Toronto has to offer.  Of course, this meant I had to try it.

So what did I think?

Well lets get one thing straight.  If the standard definition of poutine is cheese curds, chicken gravy and fries (Just like a BLT is bacon, lettuce and tomato) then this dish really works outside of that paradigm.  The fries which are fresh cut, are dusted with a little parmesan cheese that ramps up not only taste, but crispiness.  Cheese curds are replaced by artisan sheep cheese and gravy is provided via drippings and renderings from the mound of braised beef layered on top.  Garnished with a little green onion and voila, the reputed JK poutine.

Shit was delicious.  Really tasty, and a very creative take on a traditional Quebec dish.  The cheese’s sharpness blended really well with the braised beef, and the crispiness of the fries were absolutely to die for.  But there was still one nagging thought:  It wasn’t poutine.

And for some time, I kept telling myself “who cares if it isn’t ‘real’ poutine?”.  By that logic, Caplanski’s smoked meat would have to be discredited because it’s not ‘real Montreal smoked meat’.  For the record, that my friends is complete horse-shit.  The formula is simple:  If the food is good, the food is good!

But still, there was something nagging me that I couldn’t get over.

Then it clicked.

I had realized that it wasn’t the quality of food which was in question.  What was so off-putting about this experience was the environment by which I was in.  I glanced around and suddenly I was consumed by my epiphany.

The Douchebags!

They were all around us.  Like black flies in the middle of Algonquin.  You were fully aware of their annoying presence and they were inescapable.  Here they were – in droves – sitting at their respective tables in their god-awful, distressed $300 jeans and pointy-toe dress shoes discussing what condo development was the best or how amazing their kids were doing in school.  It was like eating in a roomful of Penelopes.  Middle aged, upper-educated, self-entitled morons had migrated from their Forest Hill and Leslieville dwellings and flocked to this discreet watering hole.

And why shouldn’t they.   This was Jamie Kennedy’s brainchild of a lunch spot.  The place where you not only pay $24 for a soup, salad and coffee but the place where you posture like you are king shit.  I mean lets face it, the JK brand was established on posturing.  WIth his mantra about how good food should be made available to everyone and not just the rich, it exemplified the exact douchebaggery that his restaurants attract.  Good food aside Jamie, but I’m sorry, I didn’t see one motherfucker from The Esplanade eating there.  And to be honest, spending $24 on soup, salad and coffee ain’t exactly frugal spending even to me, who represents the lower-end of the yuppie/hipster sect.

But there I was, surrounded by dickheads that go to Leafs games simply because they can afford it.  And these dickheads, with their petulant buzzing, souring my poutine that I had yearned to try, turned my experience from bearable to off-putting.

I liked the food.  I really did.  But until Jamie Kennedy does something about the douchebag infestation, I’ll go eat my poutine at New York fries.

Domphod’s Chip Truck Saturday, Oct 25 2008 

Alright so I have another Ottawa one here for you guys…

Just about every time that I’m in Ottawa, like clockwork, I go out and get my drink-on with most of the friends that I left behind when I moved to Toronto. Similarly, it’s almost always a given that I will end up at Zaphod’s and/or the Dom to get tore up and have been going to these spots since I was like 17 or 18…I MEAN! I HAVE ONLY BEEN GOING TO THESE SPOTS SINCE THE AGE OF 19; THE LEGAL DRINKING AGE IN ONTARIO. … … …so next to these two spots there is this little chip truck, who also have really angry/disgruntled/annoyed staff. I’m not sure, nor do I really care, what the name of this place is, so it will forever be known, at least by me, as the Domphod’s Chip Truck. Anyways! I have eaten so many poutines and veggie dogs at this place while leaving the Dom and/or Zaphod’s at like 2am that it’s disgusting.

From what I remember, the fries are good and you get nice cheese curds (with no squeak), pretty tasty yet oft over cooked and a really think and peppery gravy that is pretty ok. This is a pretty passable poutine but hurts a little bit when the small costs you $5.50. With little to layering that I would only recommend if you’re closing the night to fill your stomach to help you not barf and/or avoid a hangover. I have never had it during the day and really don’t want to…but I did have two and half small poutines this weekend from this spot. Ugh.   

 

 

 

S&G Fries Friday, Oct 24 2008 

Early Saturday afternoon after getting off the train in Ottawa I was feeling a little hungry and since we were going to Westboro it was suggested that we go to S&G Fries for a poutine. How am I going to say no to that? If you’re looking for it, S&G Fries is a perma-parked in front of the Beer Store (1845 Carling Ave).

S&G Fries has been awarded for having the best poutine in Ottawa by a plethora of media outlets, most notably, and advertised all over the truck, by the viewers of The New RO (which is now The A Channel).

Went back to my girlfriend’s parents’ house to chow down on this monstrous large poutine that only sets you back $7.50 and can easily feed two…although I tend not to share it. I’m awesome like that.

The fries are fresh cut and tender and delicious and you can catch the boys at S&G Fries cutting them up right in front of you. We kind of missed out since we just hit the tail-end of the lunch rush. Also when you watch these guys make the poutine, as I naturally did, the dumped out a full bag of cheese curds onto the bed of fries before having copious amounts of gravy poured over it.

Hands down, this is the best poutine that I have had in Ottawa. My only really beef with it is that it’s not layered at all. If you’re in the area stop on by and pick up a poutine from S&G Fries – it’s by far the closest thing to the traditional poutine that you’ll find in Ottawa.  

Inter Steer Thursday, Oct 16 2008 

If there is one thing that I love about working that isn’t the paycheck, it’s long weekends. Sometimes that extra day off makes it feel like you’re on vacation! Well at least it feels like I’m on vacation – then again I haven’t had more than a three day weekend off in over a year. Holy shit. Glad to be off next week … Anyways, despite the extra time off, every time we go back to work I sincerely believe that when asked how the long weekend was the answer by just about any individual is almost always “too short”.

This holiday Monday, Canadian Thanksgiving, I was off and it seriously felt like I had a few days off. It was such a lazy day but I felt so rested that it was worth not really doing anything other than going to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull at the Revue and stopping into to Inter Steer on the way home for some eats.

Inter Steer is this relatively new Polish tavern that can be found at 357 Roncesvalles (at Constance – about a block and a half south of Howard Park) and has Susur Lee trained chef, Bart Murawiecki, in the kitchen. My buddy Nick even told me that the chef at Inter Steer even helped Lee on my girlfriend’s new favorite TV show, Iron Chef America, a while back.

Before I even go on to talk about the poutine, I want to say that I’m pretty sure that, after one visit, I love Inter Steer and want to hang out all the time and get shit faced with the Polish dudes while sports grace the flat-panel TVs, random songs from Lil Wayne to Refused to bad alt rock pound from the jukebox and people hoping to be one tenth as good as Fast Eddie Felson at the pool table. Don’t get it twisted though, this isn’t a sketchy dive bad – while there’s a lot of wood (walls, ceiling, tables, chairs, everything) the place looks pretty swanky and attracts everyone from Polish O.G.’s to families to young professionals to jaded punk rock degenerates (aka me). If you’re in the hood, stop on by – the menu seems pretty wicked and they have pickled eggs. Just sayin.

I don’t know why, but for some reason, when I found out that there was a master chef in the kitchen I assumed that this would be done right with fries, gravy and cheese curds. Sadly, the cheese curds were not present. The fries were less than stellar as they were not of the fresh-cut variety, but the gravy, while a little thicker than I would normally prefer, was pretty delicious. Additionally, for some reason, there was some spice/seasoning sprinkled on top that basically tasted like ClubHouse Montreal Chicken seasoning– which was weird to me because a) it was on a poutine and b) it was on a poutine made by a former Susur sous chef. Then again, I guess it makes sense?

In any event, for $5 you get a huge portion. It’s also layered like whoa (see below) – while not curds there is no shortage of cheese or sauce for a constant mess of melted goodness. Two thirds of the way through I was already full and there was no lack of cheese or gravy insight. Best believe I motored my way through it regardless.

I’m sort of in a bind here. The poutine was not a good poutine. It was a good mish mash of french fries, cheese and gravy – but I think I had high expectations for a classy chef making a classless dish. However, while not ranking highly on my poutine scale, it definitely ranks high on my fatty snack foods to consume will getting pinted. For $5 I can almost guarantee that I will be eating this again while slamming back cheap pints of Cool while annoying people with old AFI jams on the juke box while hopefully hustling enough pool money to pay for this poutine, a pumpkin tofu burger, all my drinks and a cab ride home. I fucking love Inter Steer. Real talk.

action de grace Sunday, Oct 12 2008 

Happy Thanksgiving, Canada!!

mashed potatoes, st. alberts cheese curds and homemade gravy

mashed potatoes, st. albert's cheese curds and homemade gravy

Ideal Catering Wednesday, Oct 1 2008 

A couple Wednesday’s ago I was not feeling to hot and called in sick to work. I pretty much spent most of the day sleeping and eating cereal in my underwear. It’s my new life goal, actually. Somehow fall ass-backwards into money and eat cereal all day while spinning records and playing video games. But alas, this has yet to happen so I’m typing this from my desk at work. ANYWAYS! On my day off, while checking my electronic mail, I received an instant message from my big sister who, when she found out that I was not at work, invited me to meet her on campus to get poutine from the previously hyped chip truck. I had some time to kill before Ten Frame Fight hit the lanes, so I decided to conveniently feel better and go meet her on the U of T campus to hit up Ideal Catering.

 

 

So what I had in front of me, waiting in this polystyrene chest was previously described to me as one of the best poutines in Toronto. Even while we were ordering we heard people walk buy talking about that it was good but “not as good as the one’s in Ottawa” or something along those lines. Then again most students are totally full of shit anyways. Real Talk.

 

I was pretty anxious to dive into this, so I cracked my Dr. Pepper, took a sip and opened it up…

 

 

At first glance, this looks pretty awesome. We have fresh cut fries, nice looking thickness for the gravy and, most importantly, cheese curds. I’m so stoked already! That and it was like $5 for this size small poutine and a Dr. Pepper.

 

The fries were pretty good – as most chip truck fries are. I think it’s the law. As a personal preference, I would have liked them to be a little more salty, and maybe not like quadruple fried, but these were nice, thick pieces of potatoey goodness.

 

As far as the cheese goes, it’s cheese curds so there’s automatic points. While there were not so fresh that they squeeked, It’s hard shitting on them for it since there’s not really any cheese factories/farms/whatever in the general vicinity and I think it’s safe to assume that most chip trucks don’t have the means to have cheese curds shipped in daily for their poutines.

 

Here, my friends, is there this poutine was lost on me – the gravy. It basically tasted like brown water. There was little flavor at all which basically had me eating wet fries with cheese curds. I was told that all chip trucks in Toronto basically have a free gravy policy and that it’s all like this. Bummer.

 

On another positive note, this was really filling for a small and totally worth the money for a quick eat. I probably could have enjoyed this a little more it had I seasoned it with salt, pepper and/or ketchup. I’m totally not into this poutine at all, but big sis keeps going and biggin’ it up.

 

Maybe I should go back and try it again. Maybe I went on an “off” day. Maybe it just isn’t that good in the first place. Maybe Ideal Catering’s poutine is not ideal at all. Maybe – just maybe…

 

Poutine Party Monday, Sep 22 2008 

Saturday, I headed over to a friend’s place to create a concoction that has been talked about for weeks. Phenomenal home-made poutine -.a pulled-pork poutine no less. It’s Monday afternoon and I’m in still in awe.

 

It all started Saturday morning with a true barbeque enthusiast, powering this beast up:

 

 

For more info on the actual barbequing, please visit his blog; Swine Flavored Smoke Signals.

 

By the time I showed up most of the Yukon Gold potatoes were cut and soaking and I got there just in time to get the oil (three bricks of lard and a bottle of peanut oil) going. Without a deep fryer, we threw this bitch on his smaller propane bbq.  

 

 

 

  

 

Once nice and golden brown we gave them a pat down and salted them like crazy – when the other dudes weren’t looking I was salting the fuck out of these things! SO GOOD!

 

While the fries were being tended to by yours truly, and the SFSS pulling his pork we had our third musketeer manning the gravy train. A mish mash between two different types of gravy, freshly ground pepper, sugar and some pork drippings, the conductor concocted a mind blowing smokey gravy! CHOO CHOO!

 

Everything had to be on point like we were architects and once everything was good to go, the building started…

 

 

ST. ALBERT’S CHEESE CURDS – the Don P of cheese curds. Hands down my favorite with La Trappe de Fromage in Gatineau with a close-ish second. Sadly, I did not find any English info to link you guys for La Trappe.  

 

 

  

 

I guess I should review this, huh?!

 

 

This is obviously not your traditional Quebecois poutine; thanks to the pork and the gravy style. Regardless, this was so amazingly delicious! The fries were phenomenal, the gravy was glorious and most importantly we had cheese curds. The curds, however, I wish were squeaky, but I got them on my last trip to Ottawa and kept them frozen for this occasion. The kept pretty well but obviously lost there squeek in Hoth, if I do say so myself.  

 

I don’t really know much about the pulled pork – I’m not really one that normally eats meat so I kind of ate around the flesh as much as I could but holy shit! I believe my quote, while chewing was “Man, I don’t normally eat meat at all…cuz I kinda don’t like it…but this…oh man…*shakes a pointing finger at the bbq master while laughing*”

 

The three of us were so incredibly food high. I would do this again in a heartbeat. So much fun and so delicious. Easily the best poutine I have had so far in this city…wow…Toronto eateries need to step their game up if 3 dudes drinking beer hanging out can destroy their poutines. Real talk.

Pizza Italie Saturday, Sep 20 2008 

I used to live, without exaggeration, about a five minute walk from Pizza Italie which can be found at 101 Promenade du Portage in Gatineau (Hull Sector), Quebec. Actually, in my time living in that neighborhood I was definitely vegan for the majority of it. I know – pretty ironic. My girlfriend who I was (and still currently am) living with would get the Pizza Italie poutines and tell me how good they were – I tried to shrug it off for as long as I could and just got fries. Then one day I just definitely swooped in and stole a bite of her poutine and that, my friends, was the end of my vegan days. Good riddance!

 

On the recent trip to Ottawa it was decided that we would hit up Pizza Italie when we got into town before going to my parent’s place for drinking and hot tubing. Good call, M&N. Good call. Great call, M&N. Great call.

 

 

I don’t even know if you guys are ready for this shit…

 

 

BAM!

 

There’s nothing else to say but this has nice thick fries that aren’t Belgian or taste like they’re frozen or any of that (read: perfect), smothered in a gloriously delicious gravy and an insane amount of fresh squeaky cheese curds.

 

 

It’s also beautifully layered all the way through. Just looking at this is making my heart hurt and my mouth water – I’m so incredibly hungry right now…

 

TAKE NOTE, TORONTO! THIS IS HOW IT’S DONE! Oh! And maybe I should mention that it’s only about $5 to get this beast. No matter how full I am, I never leave a bite.

 

In my ESD post I mentioned that a trip to Ottawa would be complete without hitting up ESD – and I still hold true to that. Now, my friends, I have to say that not trip to the Ottawa area is worth taking without stopping in my old hood to visit Pizza Italie.

 

For the record: Mom, Dad and in-laws, you know that I love visiting you guys and that it’s my reason for going nine times out of ten, and you know that I wouldn’t really consider it a wasted trip if I saw you guys and didn’t go to Pizza Italie, but I you guys know just as well as I do that this poutine is the bomb-shit!

 

That’s right it’s the bomb-shit. It’s the Cadillac of poutines. I would award it a gold medal if I could. I would give it the Stanley Cup of poutinery if I could. Come to think of it – I should make an official curdsade certificate for these guys giving them 97/5 golden curds. Yeah I said it. Damn Skippy.

Burger King Thursday, Sep 18 2008 

The day after I was advised of the chip trunk poutine on the University of Toronto I went on the mission to find if before going to a party on the UofT campus…but to no avail. I assumed that I was either lost or they just shut down for the evening. Upon further investigation, it was the latter. Anyways, jonsing to get my ‘tine on we walked around the campus and side streets looking for a spot that we could eat at that could curb that poutine craving.

 

About 25-35min later, we settle for a Burger King. Just the thought of how we went to BK for a poutine is totally bumming me out – was there seriously no other spots?! We were almost tempted to ditch the curdsade for the evening and getting pizza or falafel – but we passed on the pizza because it wasn’t poutine and we passed on the falafel because who wants to smell like a walking garlic clove at a party. So here we were at Bloor and Bathurst walking into a sketchy looking BK for a fucking poutine. Ugh – the things I do…

 

 

“Caution: Hot”? Thank you, Dr. Obvious! I did not realize that the gravy that melts the cheese on top of the fries that just came out of the deep fryer would be hot! /sarcasm.

 

 

 

We got fries. We got gravy. We got cheese curds. I immediately gave them points for getting it right! I was kind of disappointed with the size, but it was only $1.89 to add it on to a combo – so that’s actually not bad. In all honesty, nothing to really complain about. So on to the taste test.

 

As a self-proclaimed poutine connoisseur, I will tell you all right now that I’m a little embarrassed to say this…the poutine was actually pretty good. Maybe it’s because I was really hungry, or maybe its because it was actually tasty – I don’t know, I’m not a doctor. What I do know, however, is that I was pleasantly surprised at what I got at what was possibly the sketchiest BK that I have ever been to.

 

While they did use good curds (sans squeek mind you) and really tasty gravy with a near perfect consistency, the fries sucked (obviously) and no layering. In their defense, the container seems a little small to layer, but regardless this poutine could have greatly profited from it.

 

Speaking of layering, on top of the above (see what I did there?), I was apparently pretty lucky because my girlfriend who also got a poutine did not seem to have the same quality that I did – despite the aforementioned caution it was barely warm. Kind of a bummer. However, on my good experiences, she went to another BK (King and Dufferin) last night and got a poutine – not only was it about $4 on its own but it was “meh” at best. While I had a pretty positive experience, they apparently need to work on being consistent.

 

In closing, I would only go out of my way to get a BK poutine if the king himself was serving it. The King: what a great dude.

 

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